Ever heard of Compagnia Italiana Computer? No, not the Italian Computer Company. Compagnia Italiana Computer was actually one of Italy’s earliest personal computer makers. You might not know about them today, but back in the 1970s and 80s, they were poised to take the tech world by storm. Founded by two visionary Italian engineers, Compagnia Italiana Computer started making some of the first desktop PCs that ordinary people could use at home. They had big dreams of bringing affordable computers to the masses. For a moment, it looked like they might even rival IBM. But a series of missteps and bad luck led to their quick downfall. Their story is a cautionary tale of ambition, poor decisions, and the ruthlessness of the tech industry. Here’s how Compagnia Italiana Computer rose to prominence and then disappeared without a trace.

The Formation of Compagnia Italiana Computer

Compagnia Italiana Computer was founded in 1968, emerging during an exciting time when digital computers were first becoming commercially available. Three Italian engineers, whose names have sadly been lost to history, had a vision for bringing advanced computing technology to Italian businesses.

They started small, importing minicomputers from the US and reselling them to local companies. At first, many businesses were hesitant to adopt this new technology, but CIC’s engineers were passionate about demonstrating how computing could transform operations. Through tireless efforts educating potential clients about the possibilities of automation and data analysis, CIC grew rapidly over the next decade.

Expansion and Success

By the late 1970s, CIC was manufacturing their own line of minicomputers and had over 100 employees. They won lucrative government contracts to supply minicomputers for managing infrastructure like the Italian highway system. CIC’s systems were also used by many major Italian companies to handle payroll, inventory, and accounting.

For a while, it seemed like CIC’s success was unstoppable. Flush with cash, CIC expanded into software services and even opened research labs to explore artificial intelligence. But storm clouds were gathering. In the mid-1980s, the rise of personal computers and workstations posed an existential threat to CIC’s business model.

The Fall

CIC was slow to adapt to the PC revolution. They had focused so long on minicomputers that they failed to anticipate how cheap and powerful PCs would become. Many of CIC’s clients started replacing minicomputer systems with PC networks that could run the same software at a fraction of the cost.

By the early 1990s, CIC was in disarray. After failed attempts to restructure, the company was sold for parts in 1994, a sobering reminder of how quickly the computer industry landscape could change. Although CIC’s story ended in failure, for over two decades they had brought advanced computing to businesses in Italy and played an important role in the technology’s spread.

Compagnia Italiana Computer’s Early Success

Compagnia Italiana Computer, or CIC, started in the late 1970s as a small tech company in Milan, Italy with big dreams of building affordable personal computers for everyday people. ###

By the early 1980s, CIC released their first PC, called the CIC-001. It was a major success, allowing average Italians to have a computer in their home for the first time. CIC’s models were praised for their simple, user-friendly design and lower price points than competitors.

Bolstered by their early wins, CIC expanded rapidly. They opened new factories, hired hundreds of employees, and launched new models with increased capabilities. It seemed like CIC could do no wrong.

Unfortunately, CIC’s meteoric rise was followed by an equally swift downfall. Some key factors in their demise:

  1. Overexpansion. CIC grew too quickly, taking on expensive new facilities and staff they couldn’t sustain.
  2. Increased competition. As the PC market grew crowded with competitors like IBM and Apple, CIC struggled to keep up.
  3. Lack of innovation. CIC’s computers became outdated but the company failed to invest in new technology and designs. Consumers wanted more advanced machines with new features.
  4. Poor management. CIC’s leadership made reckless business decisions and failed to address major problems. By the late 1980s, the company was in crisis.

Though CIC’s story ended in failure, their early PCs introduced many Italians to personal computing and showed the world that technology was for everyone. CIC paved the way for more successful Italian tech companies to follow. The rise and fall of Compagnia Italiana Computer remains an important chapter in Italy’s technology history.

Expanding Production and Offerings

As CIC’s popularity and success grew in Italy, the company looked to expand into new markets and product areas.

New Hardware

In the mid-1970s, CIC released its first desktop computer aimed at business users, the CIC-7000. This system included a keyboard, monitor, and central processing unit in one integrated package. It was more affordable and space-efficient than previous models, appealing to small companies and individuals.

CIC continued improving its personal computer line over the next decade. The CIC-8000, released in 1978, included a more powerful 16-bit CPU and the option for color graphics. It could run a variety of business software for word processing, accounting, and database management. The CIC-16 series, launched in 1982, provided even faster 32-bit processing and larger memory capacities. These new models helped CIC gain more ground in the business computing market across Western Europe.

Software and Peripherals

To complement its hardware, CIC developed software and peripherals in-house. The company released its own operating system (CIC-DOS), programming languages (CIC Basic, CIC Pascal), and business applications (CIC-Calc spreadsheet, CIC-File database). CIC also produced peripherals such as dot matrix printers, external storage drives, and modems that were fully compatible with CIC computers.

By controlling both the hardware and software sides, as well as peripherals, CIC was able to provide fully integrated computing solutions to its customers. However, this also made CIC systems less compatible with non-CIC products. Some critics argued that CIC was limiting customer choice and flexibility. Still, for many customers the convenience of a one-stop-shop for their computing needs outweighed these concerns.

Through the 1970s and early 1980s, CIC’s expansion into personal computers, software, and peripherals fueled steady growth. But the company was about to face threats from new competitors that would reshape the industry.

The Decline of the Company

By the late 1980s, Compagnia Italiana Computer started facing serious challenges that ultimately led to its decline.

Increased Competition

As the personal computer market grew rapidly, competition intensified. CIC found itself competing with major multinational companies like IBM, HP and Dell that had significantly more resources and reach. These competitors were able to undercut CIC on price and outspend them on marketing and advertising. CIC’s limited resources made it difficult to keep up.

Shift to PC Clones

The rise of IBM PC clones made CIC’s proprietary hardware architecture obsolete. Clones that were compatible with the IBM PC quickly dominated the market. CIC’s systems were incompatible, so customers migrated to the clone makers. Attempts to modify their systems to be IBM PC compatible came too late.

Economic Troubles

Italy’s economy struggled in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, entering a recession that lasted over 5 years. This negatively impacted technology spending and CIC’s sales. Demand for CIC’s premium products declined as customers looked for more affordable options.

By 1993, Compagnia Italiana Computer was in serious financial trouble. After failed attempts to rescue the company, CIC finally went bankrupt and was liquidated. Though short-lived, CIC helped establish Italy as an innovator in the early days of personal computing and served as an inspiration for aspiring technology entrepreneurs in Italy. Its rapid rise and fall illustrated both the opportunities and challenges of the nascent PC industry.

The Legacy of Compagnia Italiana Computer

Compagnia Italiana Computer may be gone, but its legacy lives on. As Italy’s first computer company, CIC paved the way for the tech industry in the country. Though CIC only operated for a short time, its impact on Italy’s computer and technology sector was monumental.

CIC helped establish Italy as an innovator in technology. At a time when most saw computers as strange, futuristic machines, CIC had the vision to see their potential. CIC’s early adoption of computers and push to manufacture them domestically put Italy on the map as a tech innovator. This spirit of innovation continues in Italy’s tech sector today.

CIC also helped train a new generation of tech talent. The engineers, programmers, and technicians that got their start at CIC went on to populate Italy’s burgeoning computer industry. They brought the knowledge and skills they developed at CIC to new companies and projects, helping to build Italy’s tech workforce. This diffusion of knowledge and talent seeded Italy’s tech ecosystem.

Though CIC’s time was short, its ambition and vision endure. CIC dared to dream that Italy could become a leader in technology and computing. Though the company is gone, its legacy lives on in Italy’s continued excellence in design, manufacturing, and innovation. CIC was ahead of its time, but thanks to its pioneering work, Italy’s tech sector has only grown. CIC’s story serves as an inspiration, reminding us of the power of vision, courage, and persistence in the face of obstacles or doubt.

CIC may have disappeared, but its legacy as a tech pioneer in Italy, its role in developing talent, and its spirit of innovation live on. Though gone, CIC is certainly not forgotten. Its lasting impact on Italy’s tech sector is a lasting testament to CIC’s vision and daring.


And there you have it, the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of Compagnia Italiana Computer. What started as an ambitious dream to build Italy’s first real computer company ultimately crashed and burned due to mismanagement, ego, and a failure to adapt to an rapidly evolving tech landscape. Their story serves as a cautionary tale of how not to run a startup. But we can also take inspiration from CIC’s vision and ambition. With hard work, perseverance and the ability to change with the times, any dream is possible. So keep your head high, learn from the past, and go build that startup you’ve always wanted. The future is yours to create. What will your story be?

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